February 14, 1956 |
|June 15, 1982, for the San Diego Padres|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 15, 1989, for the San Francisco Giants|
|Earned run average||3.13|
|Career highlights and awards|
David Francis Dravecky (born February 14, 1956) is an American former professional baseball player, a motivational speaker, and an author. He played Major League Baseball for the San Diego Padres (1982–87) and San Francisco Giants (1987–89). Cancer ended his career as his team was reaching the 1989 World Series. He won the Hutch Award in 1989.
A left-handed pitcher, Dravecky represented the Padres at the All-Star game in 1983, his second season, in which he won 14 games. Equally proficient as a starter or coming out of the bullpen, Dravecky helped the Padres to their first pennant the following year.
Dravecky became friends with two other Padres pitchers, Mark Thurmond and Eric Show, who also held strong Christian beliefs. In the spring of 1984, Show recruited the other two to the John Birch Society, a far right US political group, and the three were widely reported on after they distributed Birch literature from a booth at the June 1984 Del Mar Fair. Dravecky stated he saw Birch beliefs as the "natural outgrowth" of a born-again Christian philosophy. Over his first six seasons, Dravecky had a 60-55 win–loss record, and the Associated Press wrote that he was better known for his association with the John Birch Society than his pitching.
On July 4, 1987, the San Francisco Giants acquired Dravecky, pitcher Craig Lefferts, and third baseman Kevin Mitchell from the San Diego Padres for pitchers Mark Grant and Mark Davis and third baseman Chris Brown for their pennant drive. He went 7–5 during the stretch, and in the playoffs pitched a shutout in Game 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals and lost Game 6 by a score of 1–0. The Cards won in seven games.
While with the Giants, Dravecky and teammates Scott Garrelts, Atlee Hammaker, and Jeff Brantley became known as the "God Squad" because of their strong Christian faith. Disdaining the hard-partying lifestyle of many of their teammates, they preferred to hold Bible studies in their hotel rooms while on the road.
Crisis and comeback
The following season, a cancerous desmoid tumor was found in Dravecky's pitching arm. On October 7, 1988, he underwent surgery, which removed half of the deltoid muscle in his pitching arm and froze the humerus bone in an effort to eliminate all of the cancerous cells. Doctors advised Dravecky to wait until 1990 to pitch again, but Dravecky was determined to pitch in 1989. By July 1989, he was pitching in the minors, and on August 10, he made a highly publicized return to the major leagues, pitching eight innings and defeating Cincinnati 4–3. In his following start, five days later in Montreal, Dravecky pitched three no-hit innings, but in the fifth inning, he felt a tingling sensation in his arm. In the sixth inning, he started off shaky, allowing a home run to the leadoff batter and then hitting the second batter, Andrés Galarraga. Then, on his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped; the sound of it breaking could be heard throughout the stadium. Dravecky collapsed on the mound. He'd suffered a clean break midway between his shoulder and elbow, ending his season.
The Giants won the National League pennant in 1989 (defeating the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS in five games), and in the post-game celebration, Dravecky's arm was broken a second time when he was running out to the mound to celebrate. A doctor examining Dravecky's x-rays noticed a mass in his arm, which turned out to be malignant. Dravecky's cancer had returned, ending his career. Eighteen days later, Dravecky retired from baseball with a 64–57 record with 558 strikeouts and a 3.13 ERA in 1,062⅔ innings. He won the 1989 Willie Mac Award honoring his spirit and leadership.
Retirement and later career
After two more surgeries, his left arm continued to deteriorate, and on June 18, 1991, less than two years after his comeback with the Giants, Dravecky's left arm and shoulder were amputated. After recovering from the surgery, Dravecky went on to begin a new career as a motivational speaker.
Dravecky wrote two books about his battles with cancer and his comeback attempt: Comeback, published in 1990 and written with Tim Stafford, and When You Can't Come Back, coauthored with wife Jan and Ken Gire and published in 1992. He has also written a Christian motivational book, "Called Up", published in 2004 by Zondervan. With the help of Stafford, Dravecky saw Comeback republished as a self-titled autobiography for children in 1992.
- "The tortured life of Eric Show", September 11, 2010, by Tom Friend, ESPN. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "All's Right With His World", by Franz Lidz, Sports Illustrated, August 6, 1984. Retrieved May 23, 2013.
- "Making a pitch for the Birchers", Dan Donovan, The Pittsburgh Press, July 9, 1984. Retrieved from Google News May 23, 2013.
- "Dravecky Joins 'Birch Society'", Associated Press, Youngstown Vindicator, July 10, 1984. Retrieved from Google News May 23, 2013.
- "Giants sending Dravecky to the mound in Series bid", Associated Press, Eugene Register-Guard, October 13, 1987. Also published as "Dravecky Has Made Impact", Associated Press, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 13, 1987. Both retrieved from Google News May 23, 2013.
- Dravecky, Dave (2004). Called Up: Stories of Life and Faith from the Great Game of Baseball. Zondervan. p. 162. ISBN 031087159X.
- Thomas, Robert (August 9, 1989). "Dravecky is Back on Center Stage". New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Thomas, Robert (August 17, 1989). "Dravecky Was Told He Risked Fracture". New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Associated Press (June 19, 1991). "SPORTS PEOPLE: BASEBALL; Dravecky's Left Arm Amputated, Giants Say". New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Associated Press (October 10, 1989). "Dravecky Hurt Again". The New York Times. Retrieved June 24, 2010.